Riverside Organic is run by Simon Bennett, whose family have been tenants of the farm since 1939. It first began as a dairy farm before switching to an organic farm just before the turn of the century.
“We converted to organic farming in 2000 after making the decision to stop milking cows,” says Simon. “For us, producing food in a more natural and environmentally friendly way was very appealing.”
As with all businesses, Simon and his family knew they needed to find a gap in the market to successfully manage the change in their farming approach.
“We felt the best route to market was to have a niche. With its higher nutrient content and great taste, we set out to produce high quality beef.”
“We felt the best route to market was to have a niche.”
Organics farmer, Simon Bennett
Nowadays, the farm also produces lamb as well as beef, grown and fed on the lush green Cheshire pastures all year round. Shortly after making the switch to organic farming, the farm has also been home to a farm shop and café, which was shortly followed by a delivery service delivering as far afield as Liverpool.
Simon admits though, that the road to producing organic hasn’t been easy. “Being organic can be tricky at times. There are no quick fixes, and there are significantly less customers on a farm-to-farm basis. However, I think it is worth the effort.”
Keeping score with the locals on organic produce
It is at the onsite farm shop and café, where Simon is able to speak with his customer base and talk to them about all matters organic. “Engaging with your customers is vital for them to understand what you’re doing and for them to have trust in your methods,” he says.
“Additionally, by talking with our customer base, we can learn a lot from them and what they want to see from us. Our customers are very loyal and are willing to support a local business – many return to us again and again.”
Engage with the public
Shipbrook Hill Farm is regularly one of over 250 farms nationwide that open up yearly for Open Farm Sunday each year in June.
Simon is not only eager to immerse locals into the world of organic farming, as he is often reaching out to the wider public by volunteering at county shows, such as the Cheshire show. “I think educating the general public about agriculture is essential,” he says.
He admits that it is a “constant battle” trying to explain the differences between conventional and organic farming, but it is a battle worth doing. “I can’t be preaching about the importance of farming, without being out there and teaching the public myself,” he says.